The truth is even stranger: The Van Man has a 92 miles-per-hour fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a deal with Nike and a growing fan club, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a hard season is in a 1978 Westfalia campervan he purchased for $10,000. The van is his escape from the pressure of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analysed.
If a baseball life requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion. If pitching demands repetition and exactitude, the van promises freedom.
He bought the van in 2011, a few weeks after signing his first contract out of high school with the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Volkswagen has been his friend and his spiritual centre ever since. He named it Shaggy after the character in the Scooby Doo cartoons. He sings it songs and writes it poems and gives it Valentine’s Day cards.